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6 Activities to Promote Computer Science Education

Did you know that experts estimate there will be 1.4 million computing jobs open in 2020 and only 400,000 students to fill them? Since 2013, Computer Science Education Week has been held during the second week of December. This week is designed to make students and teachers more aware of computer science and the importance of building computing skills at early age. While enrolling all students in regular coding and other computer science classes may be the ideal solution, you can still take small steps to encourage students to take notice of computer science and help them discover how much fun it can be.

Participate in an Hour of Code

In 2014, the Hour of Code gained a lot of publicity when President Obama sat down to join students as part of the event. This year, and all year long, you can also participate in an hour of code. Organize your own Hour of Code event at your school or join up with an existing group. If you’re not sure of what you’re doing, search for local volunteers to come work with your students during the event. For a less formal option, simply have your students complete one of the coding tutorials available through Code.org where they code with popular characters from Star Wars, Minecraft, or even Anna and Elsa from Frozen.

Don’t be afraid to go beyond an Hour of Code either. Many different apps and websites offer a series of lessons designed to teach students how to code or to think in ways that are related to the language of coding. A few of them to try in your classroom include:

Elementary

  • Kodable – a fun app that comes with an extensive coding curriculum
  • ScratchJr – a free app that teaches kids to think like a coder while completing fun tasks
  • Tynker – another provider of an Hour of Code resources featuring brands and characters kids love

Secondary

  • Hopscotch – an app that allows kids to make and publish their own games
  • CodeCombat – an online, multiplayer game that requires kids to write code to play
  • Kodu Game Lab – a visual programming tool that kids can download to create games

Hold a Computer Science Career Day

Students often hear that there are tons of job in the tech industry, but do they know what those jobs look like? Invite parents and other community members to your school for a Computer Science Career Day. Your speakers can rotate among classes to share what their jobs are like or they can set up tables in booths and talk to students as they approach them. If you can’t find individuals to come to school, then have students research different tech jobs or companies and share their findings with the class.

Show a Video

Take some time to show kids a video related to computer science. There are tons of Ted Talks related to technology that could inspire kids to consider a career in computer science. A few videos you might want to use include:

Have Fun with a MaKey MaKey Kit

While a MaKey MaKey kit does not involve a lot of coding, it does encourage kids to think outside of the box and imagine the cool things they can do when they combine computers with everyday objects. You can turn students’ experiments with the kit into writing assignments, science experiments, marketing proposals, and other educational activities.

Connect Computer Science to Students’ Interests

Your students may not be interested in computer science, but they may be interested in playing football, playing with their toys, or drawing and coloring. Chances are they don’t realize how much computer science can play a role in these activities. For example, it takes a lot of technology to take video of a football game, freeze it, and move it around on the screen. Give students the task of researching how technology plays a role in their favorite hobbies. They may discover that coders help create 3D models of their favorite toys or that they can create some amazing art with lines of code.

Get Away from the Computer

While learning how to code can benefit students, thinking in the language of coding is even more important. By promoting logic and creative thinking skills, you can give students the mental skills they’ll need to be successful in a computer science field.  CS Unplugged offers a large selection of activities designed to help kids develop these critical thinking skills. These include tasks such as learning about The Turing Test and discovering how difficult it is for computers to draw lines and circles.

For more resources to help you bring Computer Science into the classroom, check out Code.org and the Computer Science Education Week website. If you use some of these activities in your classroom, share them to Facebook or Twitter with the hashtags #CSEdWeek and #HourOfCode.

For fun computer science worksheets for elementary and middle school kids, check out KidsKonnect’s library of worksheets that explain coding through fun activities! For older students, be sure to visit TeachComputerScience.com for full computer science curriculums for students aged 11-18!

How to learn about and celebrate Hanukkah

Whether you’re Jewish or want to teach your students more about this popular observance, we unpack the holiday and list activities and worksheets that you can use today!

Although it doesn’t rank among the most important of the Jewish holidays, Hanukkah is one of the most widely observed Jewish celebrations. This eight-day “Festival of Lights” illuminates what is, for many in the northern hemisphere, the darkest, coldest season of the year.

Hanukkah brings light, joy, and warmth to our homes and communities.  The holiday’s central ritual of lighting candles of a menorah each day literally brings light to the darkness.  Metaphorically, the presence of light is reflected in an emphasis on charitable donations and, for some Jews, a commitment to social action and social justice.

What are the origins of Hanukkah?

Hanukkah (sometimes spelled Chanukah) recalls the second-century BC victory of a small group of Jewish rebels (led by Judas Maccabeus and his brothers, known together as “the Maccabees”) over the armies of the Seleucid Empire.  The Maccabees seized control of Judea and founded the Hasmonean dynasty, which ruled for over 100 years.

Hanukkah means “dedication” in Hebrew, because the major accomplishment of the Maccabees was a rededication of the Jerusalem Temple, which for many years had been used for the worship of Persian and Greek deities.  The Maccabees were also responsible for expanding the boundaries of Judea and reducing the influence of what they considered pagan Hellenism.

The miracle of Hanukkah, which is reflected in the lighting of candles and eating foods prepared in oil, comes from the story that when the Maccabees rescued the Temple from the Seleucids, they could only find one small cruse of oil that bore the seal of the priests.  All the others had been profaned.  There was only enough oil to light the Temple’s menorah for one day.  Instead, by a miracle, the oil lasted eight days and nights – long enough for the priests to prepare and consecrate new oil.

Why does the date of Hanukkah change every year?

Hanukkah always starts at sundown on the 25th day of the month of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar.  All days on the Jewish calendar start at nightfall.  The secular date of Hanukkah changes every year because the Hebrew calendar is based on the lunar cycle.  Hanukkah can occur anytime between November 28th and December 26th.  This year it begins at sunset on December 10, 2020.  In 2021, Hanukkah begins on the evening of November 28.  The annual festival of lights happens in 2022 starting on December 18.

Free and Pro Hanukkah worksheets and activities

Help Teaching has surveyed many Hanukkah-related educational resources for you to download and use.  Here are the highlights:

Our own Hanukkah-themed resources include: 

There are many others listed in our Winter Holidays worksheet collection that cover ELA, math, sciences, games and puzzles, and more.

Fun Hanukkah activities

Hanukkah is a special time to enjoy with friends and family, and fun games and activities are part of the tradition. 

  • Hanukkah Mad Lib: Children will have fun spinning the dreidel and doing some Hanukkah Mad Libs which will provide hours of laughs while helping kids expand their knowledge of parts of speech.  If you don’t want to buy the book, make your own Mad Libs, or try this free one from My Jewish Learning.
  • Listen and Learn: Older children and adults will enjoy listening to stories of the season on “Hanukkah Lights” from National Public Radio carried on stations across the country.  For more than 15 years, NPR has offered original stories inspired by the Jewish festival of lights. Hosted by NPR’s Susan Stamberg, and Murray Horwitz, each year Hanukkah Lights marks the age-old Jewish celebration with contemporary fiction. Previous years’ episodes are available free and on-demand.
  • Get cooking: Food is a delicious part of Hanukkah. Holiday treats include latkes, sufganiyot, bimuelos (fried dough puffs) and keftes de prasas (leek patties). You and your kids will enjoy watching the PBS program “Sara’s Weeknight Meals: Jewish Holidays” airing on many stations across the country.  Find out where and when or watch on YouTube. Sara Moulton serves up two traditional Hanukkah dishes that are tricky to prepare.  Step by step, she takes us through the process, starting with Braised Brisket, and on the side, her Aunt Rifka’s recipe for matzo balls they call ‘flying disks’.  Sara and her nephew visit the farm and food incubator Stone Barns in Westchester, New York, to get fresh winter vegetables for her Root Vegetable Latkes. 
  • Games: These involve making your own simple cutout crafts from construction paper or card stock
    • Play “Pin the Candle on the Menorah”.  Have your kids draw and color a giant menorah on posterboard, then make cutout candles to stick on while blindfolded.  Kids take turns until all eight candles are placed.
    • Make a “tick, tack, toe” game out of dreidels and menorahs using hand drawn and cut out pieces and a hand-drawn game board.  Many crafts stores sell foam Hanukkah stickers which can be used as game pieces
  • Crafts:
    • Make a Star of David and Menorah sculptures out of popsicle sticks and a little glue.  Color the sticks beforehand.  You could use pipe cleaners instead of sticks.
    • Organize a plate of fruit into the shape of a menorah
    • There are more great craft ideas listed here.

You will find 101 Hanukkah activities for kids of all ages at care.com.

Printable worksheets

Printable worksheets are a great way to engage students in learning a new topic. KidsKonnect is a growing library of high-quality, printable worksheets for teachers and homeschoolers.  They have loads of Hanukkah Facts and Worksheets that include a fact file and activities for a range of ability levels.

Hanukkah online and multi-media resources

My Jewish Learning is offering a live community candle-lighting over Zoom every night of Hanukkah. 

ReformJudaism.org has a platter full of Hanukkah resources, videos, recipes, and activities for all ages.

Making your classroom more holiday-inclusive

This can be a challenge, particularly in today’s pluralistic society.  Here are a few ideas for celebrating holiday ideas upon which most families can agree no matter their faith or absence of it.

  • Move the spotlight off the individual student and onto others by underscoring the spirit of giving
    • Students can study figures from history who spent their lives focused on the needs of others
    • Children can also make gifts for each other, their parents/guardians, or other family members
    • Have your students taking part in a food drive or toy drive as a method to teach about the spirit of giving
  • Create multicultural celebrations
    • Acknowledging the various beliefs of students in your classroom can extend beyond the month of December
    • Celebrations of the major holidays of various faiths could occur throughout the year at the appropriate time
    • Why not make a commemoration of a holiday an opportunity to give a history lesson on the development of the holiday?
    • You can have your students investigate the cultural significance of the celebration
    • Learning about various faiths does not signify an endorsement by you or the school of that belief system
  • Limit celebrations to foundational ideas
    • A vital part of multiculturalism is to teach children about various points of view
    • By focusing on common ideas such as charity, celebrations become more universal without the added layer of religious debate
  • Maintain anti-bias goals
    • Holiday celebrations are a great way to have students examine the similarities and differences of our shared society
    • Shedding light on these differences, and celebrating them in a non-judgmental manner, is a great lesson for children to learn
  • Finally, keep parents/guardians informed
    • Let the parents/guardians of your students know ahead of time what and how religious holidays will be commemorated
    • In this way, parents can nuance what you are teaching in the classroom with their own beliefs
    • Some parents may want their child to opt out of the holiday celebration, so be prepared with an appropriate response which honors their beliefs
    • Let your school administrator know what you will be doing with regard to religious holidays, and follow the school’s guidance on the issue

Teachers and administrators may find this article helpful when assessing options for instruction about religions in U.S. public schools.

Hanukkah may be a Jewish holiday, but this festival of lights can be celebrated by all.

Hanukkah sameach!

Image source: Hanging Stars Vectors by Vecteezy

Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids

Did you know it’s possible to have fun and learn at the same time? While it’s great for kids to play with toys, their young minds are at the prime stage for taking in information and learning new skills. The solution? Toys that allow kids to learn while they play. This year when you shop for holiday and birthday gifts, opt for something with educational value.

Need help finding ideas? We’ve rounded up some of the top educational toys for kids of all ages.

Disclosure: HelpTeaching partnered with the companies of some our top picks to provide items for a giveaway, but all items were chosen for their quality educational value.

JUMP TO:
Babies Toddlers Preschoolers
Early Elementary Upper Elementary
  Pre-Teens Teens

Babies

Even though babies won’t remember whether you bought them a gift for Christmas or their birthday, sometimes you still want to get them something. Instead of adding another stuffed animal to their collection, try one of these options.

TOP PICK: 3 Ways to Play Walker – Ford F-150 – Never underestimate the power of observation. This walker allows babies to explore the world around them in three different ways, including a normal walker and push-behind mode. The steering wheel and authentic truck sounds and lights make the walker even more adorable.

Baby’s First Blocks: Nothing beats a classic shape sorting toy for babies and toddlers. Baby’s First Blocks from Fisher-Price features a handy tub to collect the shapes and a handle for carrying it. Babies and toddlers will learn to grab, manipulate, and match the shapes.

Skip Hop Activity Mirror: Mirrors are great toys for babies. They allow them to explore the world around them and also begin to recognize their own face. This mirror from Skip Hop is just one of many baby mirrors that can be attached to the seat of a car or the bar of a stroller for babies to enjoy.

Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Magic Cube

Munchkin Mozart Magic Cube: Babies love music and this magic cube combines music with lessons in cause and effect and tempo to create a fun learning experience for babies. They can press different parts of the cube to add instruments to the orchestra and see lights flash with the tempo of the music.

Go Car: This car comes with a handle to make it easy for babies to hold on to it and control the way it moves. It also glides smoothly on different surfaces, helping babies begin to learn about the concept of movement.

What’s Inside Toy Box?: With the What’s Inside Toy Box, babies begin to learn that objects have names and also build motor skills as they reach in and pull out objects or put objects back in. Additionally, this toy can help teach object permanence.

All About Me Personalized Photo Book: Babies can learn the names and faces of loved ones, pets, and other special people or places in their lives with this photo book. Parents can insert photographs in protected compartments so babies can flip through and look at them.

Toddlers

TOP PICK: Froggy Feeding Fun – Little kids can boost their fine motor skills, learn their colors, and practice their counting skills with this fun frog feeding game. Simply roll the dice and feed the frogs the correct flies. Note that the fly pieces may present a choking hazard so kids should be supervised while playing.

Start Up Circuits: Toddlers who enjoy playing with switches will enjoy these toys that help them begin to understand how circuits work. Simply flip the switch to make each object work.

Wooden Building Blocks: Blocks are a favorite for toddlers because they help them build motor skills and begin to understand geometrical concepts. This set from Pidoko Kids features 50 colorful blocks in different shapes and comes with a container for carrying them all.

Personalized Name Puzzle: One of the first things a toddler learns how to spell is his/her name. Help develop that skill and help your toddler start learning how to complete puzzles with a personalized name puzzle.

Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Bunny Peek A Boo

Color Discovery Boxes: Color Discovery Boxes help toddlers learn their colors and begin to categorize objects. Each box contains multiple objects to represent the color. Mix the objects up and have toddlers sort them and put them back where they belong. 

Bunny Peek a Boo: This fun game helps toddlers learn about prepositions and object placement. They must look at the cards and try to create the scene with the bunny and various blocks. Parents are encouraged to give clues and talk about where the bunny is. For example, “The bunny is behind the box.”

Learn the Alphabet Dough Mats: You can print out and laminate your own dough mats or you can buy these handy mats which feature uppercase and lowercase letters. These help kids learn letters and build fine motor skills.

Size and Sequence Farm Puzzles: Size and Sequence Farm Puzzles have toddlers put the puzzle pieces in order by size. This set of puzzles helps them learn how to organize objects from smallest to largest.

Dress Up Career Set: Toddlers can learn a lot from dressing up, especially when they dress up to represent different careers. With this set, your toddler can pretend to be someone else nearly every day of the week.

Seek A Boo: Seek A Boo is a fun game designed to get toddlers and preschoolers moving and help them learn how to categorize objects. Basically, it works like a game of “I Spy” where kids must find a circle that meets a particular description. Adults and kids can take turns coming up with questions.

Preschoolers

TOP PICK: Heads Talk Tails Walk – ThinkFun’s game of silly sounds and movement has kids try to match hidden head cards to the correct bodies. If the body parts don’t match, kids have to try and act out their crazy new animals.

Yeti Forgetti Memory Game – This hide and peek memory game gets kids in on the action. Cards direct kids to shuffle the igloos and try to find the locations of the different yetis in the game while watching out for the evil snow crab for a twist on a classic shell game.

Bear Counters: Bear Counters and counting cubes can be used by preschoolers in a variety of ways. Not only are they good for counting practice, but they can also be used for creating patterns and measuring.

Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Hand Puppets

Fun Express Happy Kids Hand Puppets: This adorable set of hand puppets features kids from different ethnic backgrounds. It’s great to include with a puppet theater and to use to act out social stories to help get preschoolers thinking about their actions and emotions.

Toss Across: If you’re looking for a fun game to get kids moving, try Toss Across, a game that helps kids practice their throwing skills and learn about patterns while playing a game of tic tac toe.

Periodic Table Blocks: Make block play a little more educational by having kids learn the elements of the periodic table at the same time. These square blocks are great for building and also feature the names, symbols, and atomic numbers of various elements.

Mosaic Mysteries Pattern Puzzle: Kids can build fine motor skills and create patterns when they play with the Mosaic Mysteries Pattern Puzzle, an activity that features connecting tiles to create a mosaic.

Early Elementary

TOP PICK: Invasion of the Cow Snatchers – Kids can build their logic and problem-solving skills with this exciting STEM game from ThinkFun. While the game can be enjoyed by kids as young as 6, even older kids, teens, and adults will enjoy trying to solve some of the genius level challenges.

TOP PICK: Owlconic Telling Time Teaching Game – For teachers and homeschool parents looking for new ways to help kids learn to tell time, this telling time game is exactly what you need. It helps kids make connections between digital and analog time while also working on memory skills and fractions.

Teaching Talking Cash Register: This cash register is a favorite of kids because it offers many functions. Kids can play store or open a real store and the cash register will help them add up totals and calculate change. It also features a fun scanner.

Melissa and Doug Magnetic Human Body: Kids can learn the different parts of the human body by taking them on and off the wooden form. It’s a great, non-gory way for kids to begin to explore what makes up the body.

Magformers: Magformers feature fun tiles that connect to one another. Kids can use them to build unique structures.

Magnetic Science: Magnetic Science contains 38 pieces to help kids explore magnets and their various uses.

Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Tumble Trax

Precision School Balance: With a balance, kids can practice weighing items and comparing different weights. For example, is a carrot heavier than four quarters? 

Dive into Shapes: Using a series of rods and balls, kids can build their understanding of geometry as they try to recreate the shapes on the cards.

Sum Swamp: Sum Swamp is a fun game that helps kids build their addition and subtraction skills.

Paper Airplane Conversion Kit: With the help of a grown-up, kids can use this kit to make a variety of paper planes and see how long they fly electronically.

Beaker Creatures: Learning Resources has created a fun science toy where kids can conduct experiments to reveal hidden creatures. Kids simply pop a reactor pod into the chamber, complete the steps, and discover a surprise. They learn about the scientific method and following directions at the same time.

Upper Elementary

TOP PICK: Squishy Human Body – SmartLab Toys helps kids explore the body through this unique model. The body includes 21 vital organs, bones, and body parts, as well as a 24-page anatomy book and other resources to help kids explore the model.

TOP PICK: Snap Circuits Pro – With over 75 snap-together parts and 500 exciting projects to complete, kids can learn all about electronic circuits and the basics of electricity. This kit is great for building STEM, problem-solving, and logic skills.

Adopt an Animal: Start teaching your child about giving back and becoming more aware of the world by adopting an animal. The kit comes with a certificate and a stuffed animal.

Kiwi Crate offers maker kits for kids up to age 16. Try Doodle or Tinker Crate for ages 9-16 and Kiwi for ages 5-8. Sign up for a monthly subscription box. Each box comes with fun STEM and STEAM activities for kids.

Tin Can Robot: Take an ordinary tin can and turn it into something cool with the Tin Can Robot kit. Using this kit, kids can build their own robot.

Star Wars Death Star Electronic Lab: Star Wars fans will love the challenge of the Death star Electronic Lab which has them connect circuits to help bring the Death Star to life.

Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Super Slime

Super Slime Factory: Slime is all the rage these days and the Super Slime Factory gives kids the chance to make their own slime while learning a bit about the science that goes into the process.

Qwirkle: Qwirkle is a fun game with a dominoes-like feel. Kids must match the shapes and colors, but they also have to use a bit of strategy to win the game.

Keva Contraptions: With Keva, kids can learn about engineering and geometry. This set allows kids to build unique contraptions and also comes with two balls. Perhaps kids will use them to make an epic marble run.

Create a Maze: With the Create-a-Maze set, kids are tasked with re-creating the maze on a card and then trying to get a ball through the maze.

Klutz LEGO Chain Reactions Craft Kit: This book and LEGO set helps kids learn how to build simple machines and put them to use, introducing them to the laws of physics at the same time.

For preschoolers through upper elementary school students, you can also put together a craft kit, full of supplies, such as googly eyes, stickers, craft sticks, and glitter glue, to make a variety of crafts and to encourage kids to use their imaginations.

Pre-Teens

TOP PICK: Elenco Teach Tech Mech-5 Coding Robot – This STEM coding robot introduces kids and teens to the principles of mechanical engineering. They work with their robot to get it to perform tasks such as kicking, throwing, lifting, and even drawing.

TOP PICK: Science Academy Deluxe Squishy Ball Lab – Encourage kids and tweens to get their hands dirty and make their own squishy stress balls. The kit is great for boosting STEM skills and getting in some sensory fun.

Kano Computer: Pre-teens who enjoy coding and working with electronics, but are not quite ready to work on a full-fledged computer will appreciate Kano Computer, which allows them to build their own mini computer.

Perfume Maker: A lot of science goes into the creation of perfume. This set allows pre-teens to make their own scents while learning at the same time.

Spa Soaps Kit: Let pre-teens make their own spa soaps, and then use them to host a spa party for their friends. Better yet, they can package their soaps and give them as gifts to others.

Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Giant Inflatable Ball

Giant Inflatable Ball: Encourage pre-teens to get outside and be active by purchasing a giant inflatable ball. They can make up their own fun games to go with the ball too.

Boxed Book Sets : If you know a pre-teen loves to read or has a favorite series, consider purchasing a boxed set. The Giver trilogy by Lois Lowry is a great set to consider.

Eco-Friendly Bean Bag: Instead of a normal bean bag, opt for an eco-friendly bean bag. The gift will teach pre-teens about being more environmentally conscious.

Build Your Own Pinball: Kids and teens can learn about engineering by building their own pinball game with this fun set.

Teens

Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Displate


Displates: Give teens a unique gift that teaches them to value creativity and different art forms. Displates come in different styles and relate to interests such as popular movies and TV shows or musical instruments.

Ion: A Compound Building Game – Know a teen struggling with chemistry? Find some STEM fun and refresh that chem knowledge with a fun game that has kids and teens collect cards and build chemical compounds.

Quadcopter: What’s more fun than a drone? A drone with a camera. Teens can make their own videos and take pictures as they fly their drones.

Marvel Puzzle: Have a superhero fan? Give them a superhero puzzle so they can enjoy some of their favorite skills and they put their puzzle-solving skills to the test.

Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Codenames

Codenames Disney: Codenames is a fun word association game. Purchase the Disney version or another themed-version and play it with your teen.

Die Cast Spirograph: Spirograph may seem like a kids’ toy, but this version of the classic drawing kit is super sleek. Teens may find creating their own spiral shapes relaxing.

Games: World of Puzzles: Purchase a subscription to a magazine such as Games: World of Puzzles. This fun magazine includes many different puzzles for teens and adults to solve.

Game of Phones: Teens are always on their phones. Get them to interact with one another with this fun game which has them use their phones to send messages and complete challenges.

My Cinema Lightbox: A lightbox is a fun way to get teens to write. They can come up with creative messages or even practice spelling vocabulary words.

In addition to the gifts listed above, consider purchasing apps and other digital gifts for teens or giving them a gift card to purchase music and apps for their phones or tablets.

Do you know of any must-have educational gifts for kids or teens? If so, we’d love to hear your ideas. Share them in the comments!

*This list may contain affiliate links and some companies provided products for review, but all views expressed are our own.

4 Ways to Make Your Classroom Holiday-Inclusive

Every teacher wants their classroom to be a place of joy, harmony and inclusion, particularly during the winter holiday season. But with students of many faiths and cultures represented in today’s classrooms, it can sometimes be tricky to stay sensitive to everyone’s needs and step around the pitfalls of stereotyping and tokenism.

Teachers are on the vanguard of diversity education, so it’s our job to balance awareness, representation and sensitivity when it comes to winter holiday celebrations in the classroom. These four key principles will help you develop your own strategy for holiday celebrations that engage students from a wide variety of cultures.

Don’t Assume, Stereotype, or Tokenize

First and foremost, remember that holiday activities will often require care and thought toward equitability because of how they bring real-world traditions into the classroom. That can make a great opportunity for fun and interesting learning, but its benefits must be equitable.

How to pull off this balancing act? The first step is to check your assumptions and privilege. Don’t assume that a student celebrates any particular holiday based on their ethnicity or heritage. Likewise, don’t assume that everyone celebrates a winter holiday. Some students’ religious traditions may not have winter holidays or any holidays at all, and many will likely celebrate the same holiday in different ways.

One good way to get started is to open up a discussion to any student who wants to talk about their celebrations or traditions, keeping in mind that not all children will be comfortable talking about theirs. Remember that students shouldn’t be expected to be experts on the holidays they or their families celebrate. Student-led discussions of different celebrations can be great, but avoid putting any student on the hot seat to talk about or explain a particular tradition.

Build Diversity into Your Lesson Plans

Good holiday lesson plans should celebrate differences. A unit on different holiday celebrations, for example, can provide some fun and interesting lesson opportunities. The holiday season is the perfect time to bring in guest speakers to talk to the class about how they celebrate holidays, since many students will be eager for a change of pace, and speakers can often provide interesting and in-depth insights to add to discussions. Parents or community leaders make great guest speakers, and some will probably be eager to share their traditions.

If you want to examine certain traditions but can’t fit in guest speakers, try reading books or watching films or YouTube videos as part of your investigations into how different cultures celebrate. For older students, breaking the class into groups to learn about and report on various holiday traditions can be a good way to create student interest and sharpen research skills. If interesting and diverse activities are available, field trips to community holiday events can be another excellent option.

Think Outside the Usual Holiday Cliches

There’s nothing wrong with reindeer, Santa hats and sugar cookies, but try to diversify your decorations and not focus them on a single holiday. At the same time, be careful about using symbols from cultures you’re not familiar with—do your research first and make sure you’re not using them in an offensive or inappropriate way. When in doubt, it’s best to politely ask someone with knowledge of the specific cultural tradition.

Soliciting student input on decorations or letting students hang their own crafts can offer a lot of great possibilities to let kids express themselves and feel represented in the classroom. Holiday STEM projects offer more great ideas since they often focus on things like winter weather that can be examined outside of a cultural or religious context. (Plus, they often use interesting and fun tools like student microscopes.)

In classes with a strong multicultural focus, one idea is to make the winter holidays a single piece of a rolling year-round investigation into holidays from many different traditions. This can be a good way to include students whose traditions don’t have any winter holidays, or for whom winter holidays aren’t a focal point of the year.

Consider Forms of Inclusion Outside of Religion and Culture

There are many ways to create a diverse and harmonious classroom besides acknowledging religious differences. The holidays are a great time to focus on what brings us together, and that means paying special attention to students with a full range of physical, cultural, social and emotional needs. Consider factors such as:

  • Dietary restrictions. Some traditional western Christmas food, for example, contains peanuts and other foods that may not be acceptable to students whose traditions include dietary rules.
  • Emotional and social needs. Holidays can be an emotionally stressful time for many students, so it’s important to be able to point students toward the necessary resources.
  • Needs of neurodivergent students and students with disabilities. The hustle and bustle of holiday activities can be difficult and overstimulating for students with some conditions, so make sure that diverse learners are getting the support they need.

Socioeconomic differences are another area that you may need to be particularly careful about addressing during the holidays. Questions about giving and receiving gifts can create uncomfortable moments for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, so be prepared to steer class discussions away from these topics if they come up, or to offer support to students who need it.

Cheryl Stevens is the Community Relations Specialist for AmScope. She oversees all company-wide outreach programs and initiatives. Her passion in life is helping others see the value in and implement STEM programs for children at an early age.

Alternative Thanksgiving Traditions


Whether you don’t have family nearby or are tired of the traditional turkey and stuffing, this is the year to try something new. From celebrating friends to participating in a 5K, there are many alternative ways to celebrate this Thanksgiving. Who knows? These alternative traditions could become your or your children’s traditions for years to come.

Celebrate Friendsgiving

Instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars to travel home or eating a TV dinner alone, gather together some friends for a Friendsgiving. A Friendsgiving is typically celebrated on the day before or the day after Thanksgiving, but you can also celebrate it on the actual day. The goal is to gather together with friends and enjoy a meal together.

A traditional Friendsgiving works similar to a potluck. One friend agrees to host and provide the turkey, chicken or ham. The other guests bring side dishes and desserts. If you’re not much of a cook, store-bought dishes are completely acceptable. You could even all go in together and purchase a full Thanksgiving dinner from your local grocery store or favorite restaurant.

For a unique take on a Thanksgiving meal, try a progressive dinner where a different friend hosts each course of the meal. This works particularly well if you all live close together. If no one has the space to host, head to a local diner or a restaurant like Denny’s (as declared in Tim Allen’s The Santa Clause, they’re always open).

Give Back to Others

Instead of eating at home on Thanksgiving, spend some time giving back to others. You can go the traditional service route and sign up to serve Thanksgiving dinner at a local soup kitchen or try something a little different. Giving back also teaches kids an important lesson about the value of serving others and may help them realize they have a lot to be thankful for. Some ways to give back to others on Thanksgiving include:

  • Deliver food boxes or turkey dinners to people in need
  • Collecting holiday gifts for children
  • Put together care packages to send to members of the military
  • Send cards to people you miss
  • Visit a local nursing home
  • Provide a treat to the staff at a local hospital
  • Go to a restaurant and leave your server a large tip
  • Clean out your cupboards to gather food for a local food pantry
  • Contact a local college and offer to host students who stayed on campus during the holidays

Get Fit

On Thanksgiving morning, thousands of people gather to participate in “Turkey Trots” around the United States. These 5Ks have become a Thanksgiving tradition of their own. Gather some friends together and enter the race together or run solo and meet new friends along the route. Many 5Ks also have special fun runs or walks, so kids can join in the fun too. If you’re not a fan of running, you can always walk the 5K or volunteer to help out with the race in another way. When the race is over, treat yourself to a hearty Thanksgiving meal.

If you’re missing your family’s annual touch football game, organize one of your own. Meet your friends at a local park or advertise the game on a local events page so others without family in the area can join you.

Have a Movie Marathon

Thanksgiving is a big day for movie releases. Head to your local movie theater and spend the day hopping from theater to theater to enjoy them all. Just be sure you purchase a ticket for each movie. If you prefer a cheaper option, invite some friends to your house for a Christmas movie marathon or a showing of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.” If kids are included, pull out all of your old holiday favorites, such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman.”

Go International

Many other countries celebrate their own versions of Thanksgiving throughout the year. Introducing elements of other cultures can also turn itno a mini-geography lesson for kids. Consider adopting one of these traditions for Thanksgiving:

  • In Jewish culture, some families build a hut from branches called a Sukkot. Then they eat a meal beneath the hut.
  • In China, families enjoy mooncakes, filled flaky pastries. The cakes were often used to deliver secret messages.
  • In Korea, families honor the deceased. They hold a memorial service and occasionally visit a graveyard before feasting on Songpyeon.
  • In Liberia, chicken and mashed cassavas replace turkey and mashed potatoes on the Thanksgiving table.
  • In Ancient Rome, citizens celebrated Ceres, the goddess of corn. Ceres is also where we get the word cereal, so perhaps you could incorporate some sugary cereal into your Thanksgiving meal.

However you decide to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, take some time to write down what you’re thankful for. One thing is for sure – we’re thankful for you!

Do you have any alternative Thanksgiving traditions? Share them in the comments!

America Recycles Day Activity Guide

November 15 is America Recycles Day. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans recycled about 32% of their trash last year. The good news is this is a significant increase over the less than 10% that was recycled in 1980. The bad news is that a lot of our garbage still isn’t being recycled. Although we have come a long way in our recycling practices, we still have a long way to go. America Recycles Day is an opportunity to educate students about the importance of recycling, and more importantly, involve them in the process.

Create Recycling Infographics

Ask your students to research recycling facts and statistics, then create infographics based on their findings. Younger students can get creative and make poster infographics to display around school. Older students can craft digital infographics to post on school websites, classroom blogs, or social media. Get started by assigning HelpTeaching’s lessons, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and The Trash Patrol, then by visiting the EPA’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle website. Then use an infographic maker like Visme or Piktochart to present them. Below is a sample infographic for a reference.

Infographic: Recycling Facts from HelpTeaching.com

Host a Bottle and Can Drive

Bottle and can drives are great ways to encourage recycling and raise awareness, plus they double as fundraisers for schools and organizations. Students can help organize the event by contacting the local recycling center ahead of time, spreading the word in your community, sorting on the day of the drive, and arranging for collection bins and transportation of collected materials to the recycling center. For another simple and profitable way to encourage recycling, set up an ink cartridge recycling program at your school.

Attend an Event

Whether you are looking to get your children involved in a recycling event, enter a contest, or participate in a community clean up day, you can find something to do on America Recycles Day. There are over 2,000 events registered for America Recycles Day.  Find one to attend in your area here.

Reduce Food Waste

With the approach of Thanksgiving, America Recycles Day is perfectly timed to encourage children to reduce food waste. Learn about composting or start a compost at home or school. Have students create a step-by-step plan to explain how they plan to reduce food waste at home. Better yet, have your students organize a food rescue program or donations for the local food pantry. Get started with these tips.

Get Crafty

If you plan on having your students create crafts for holiday decorations or gifts, then consider having them do so using materials that would otherwise be tossed out. Here is an excellent list of recycled crafts for kids. Also, use this writing prompt for eco-friendly gift ideas.

Reduce Electronic Waste

E-waste is an ever growing concern and electronic items should never go in your daily recycling container. But, your students’ old phones, tablets, and MP3 players can help someone else. Encourage students to donate unwanted electronics for worthy causes. Shelter Alliance and Cell Phones for Soldiers are just a couple organizations that accept cell phones donations. Learn more about how and where to recycle and donate electronics here.

Host a Clothing Swap

According to the EPA, almost five percent of municipal solid waste comes from clothing, footwear, and textiles. Consider organizing a neighborhood or church clothing swap where children (and adults!) can bring clean, gently worn items and swap for “new” items that fit. Anything left over can be donated to local organizations like The Salvation Army or Dress for Success. Also, see about coordinating swap boxes with local sports leagues for common sports items that children outgrow, like cleats. Athletes can leave outgrown pairs of cleats and in turn, take a pair from the box that fits.

Inform Others

Over 60% of America’s garbage isn’t being recycled. Some people still don’t understand the importance of recycling. Others don’t realize how much of their trash is actually recyclable. Encourage your students to inform people about the importance of recycling. Write letters to the editor of the local newspaper, give speeches at city council meetings, or create pamphlets to give out to their neighbors. Encourage people to check with their local recycling provider to make sure they are following correct recycling guidelines.

Finally, and most importantly, ask your students to brainstorm ideas on how to best promote recycling in their school and community. Their excitement for the projects they develop, plan, and complete will be the most successful and rewarding activities!

Looking for more science activities for your students? Read 10 Engaging Earth Day Activities for Kids or try our free Earth Science worksheets and lessons.

5 Ways to Commemorate Veteran’s Day in Your Class

Hold a Veteran’s Day Ceremony

There’s no better way to show the importance of this day than to devote 30 minutes to a whole school ceremony highlighting the special place that veterans hold in our country. The US Department of Veteran’s Affairs has created a handy step by step guide to hold an assembly in your school, including instructions on how to post the colors and suggestions for remarks and speakers.

If you can’t host vets in person, consider a video call or a pre-recorded video featuring interviews.

Take a Vet to School Day

The History Channel has a Take a Vet to School Day program, complete with How To Guides and Planning Guides by grade. Of course, you don’t have to involve a national program to invite veterans into your classroom. Invite your students’ relatives to sit in on class for a celebration of their service. Have the children read letters of thanks and ask the vets to say a few words. It’s a day your students and the servicemen and women will not forget.

Make Crafts and Care Packages to Commemorate Veteran’s Day

Thank a solderYounger students will love to use their creativity to show their thanks and respect for veterans. Celebrate the social studies themes of Election and Veteran’s Days with a display that encompasses both events. Ask your students to write thank you cards expressing gratitude to our service members. Contact the local VFW or Veteran’s Hospital to act as an intermediary and deliver the cards. You can use this thank you card template or download free thank you cards from Operation We Are Here to get started. Or maybe your class can send items to military personnel stationed overseas. Many organizations will assist in sending care packages to soldiers, such as Any Soldier, Operation Gratitude,  and Adopt a Soldier.

Teach Your Students About the Contribution of Women in the Military

Too often we are saddled with stereotypes of the past that are unfortunately passed on to our children. There has always been a vibrant and vital role of women in our military, but it’s important to emphasize the history and facts of those contributions. The Pennsylvania Veterans Museum has a terrific lesson plan about the role of women in the military. The Veteran’s History Project has a mini unit on the role of women in World War II.

Take a Virtual Field Trip to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans

5 Ways to Celebrate Veteran's Day (Nov. 11)This museum offers numerous opportunities for distance learning, including as many as 15 virtual field trips on topics that include Pearl Harbor, D-Day, Iwo Jima, African Americans, and Science and Technology. They also offer Skype programs that provide a lesson plan and Skype session with a museum expert who will guide your students through the content.

It’s so important to ingrain a sense of respect for our service members. There is no better way to do that than to use appropriate, creative resources to show young people how special our soldiers really are. This is another great opportunity to discuss citizenship and patriotism. For more on that topic, check out 10 Activities to Celebrate Constitution and Citizenship Day.

Do you have any lessons/activities you use to help students understand Veteran’s Day or show gratitude to those who serve our country? If so, we would love to hear them.

15 Ways to Raise Funds for Your Classroom Needs

15 Ways to Raise Funds for Your Classroom Needs
Teachers truly are miracle workers. Not only do they work hard to turn around struggling students and help exceptional students succeed, but they often do it with a limited budget and a lack of quality materials. That’s why sites like Pinterest are full of ideas for turning household goods and recyclables into fun classroom projects. Sometimes, however, teachers need more than recycled goods. That’s when money – and a bit of goodwill – comes into play. If you desperately need funding for your classroom, we’re here to help with a list of websites and other resources to provide the money you need.

Note: Before posting any fundraisers for your classroom, check your school or district guidelines. Some districts require that teachers receive approval from administration or the board before fundraising.

DonorsChoose.org

DonorsChoose.org gives teachers the opportunity to post their classroom needs and allows others to contribute to those needs. Friends, family, and community members who know about the project can contribute, but the project will also be visible to a wealth of donors who regularly work with the site to help fund classroom projects. While teachers can request virtually anything, projects with lower costs, longer deadlines, and clear academic goals have the highest funding rates. Once teachers receive the materials from DonorsChoose, they must fill out a documentation and thank you package to send to donors. Successfully completing the documentation earns teachers more points to submit new project requests.

TeacherLists.com

TeacherLists.com gives teachers a place to post their classroom supply lists so parents can easily access them. While the goal of the site is just to share school supply lists, teachers can also create lists for other reasons, giving parents and other school supporters gift ideas for Christmas or Teacher Appreciation Week. Teachers can also win free supplies by referring other teachers to the site. For example, getting one new teacher to sign up earns teachers a selection of Wet Ones hand sanitizing wipes.

Classwish

Classwish offers multiple ways for teachers to get resources for their classrooms. At the basic level, teachers create wish lists and share those lists with potential donors to help get the items and the funds they need. The site also helps schools partner with local businesses to create workplace giving or matching gift programs. Parents, friends, and others can also send greeting card gift certificates to help meet their classroom needs.

Adopt-A-Classroom

Through Adopt-a-Classroom teachers can get their classroom needs in the hands of donors who want to help meet those needs. Similar to DonorsChoose, teachers post their latest projects and other classroom needs to their Adopt-A-Classroom profile. They can then share those needs through social media or promote their page within the community to get people to donate. Donors who regularly visit the site can also search for different teachers’ needs and donate.

DigitalWish

With DigitalWish teachers can ask for donations to help bring technology into the classroom. While teachers may not receive new computers or high-end equipment, they can receive cool software and smaller digital items, such as handheld video cameras, to help bring their classrooms into the 21st century. The site also regularly offers grants to help teachers get specific products and works with companies to provide deep discounts for teachers.

PledgeCents

Jumping on the crowdfunding bandwagon, PledgeCents helps teachers use the power of crowdfunding to fund their classroom needs. After setting up a project, teachers share it through social media sites and encourage others to share it as well. As the project starts to go viral, more and more people can donate to it, helping teachers reach their goals a few dollars at a time. Since the goal of PledgeCents is to get others involved, teachers should not be shy about asking for donations and should work hard to present a compelling case to get their needs met.

Freecycle

While Freecycle might not help you meet specific classroom needs, it could help you find free resources for your classroom. On Freecycle, people give away things for free. By connecting with a local group, you could find free classroom furniture, boxes and other random objects for craft projects, or even request specific items for a classroom project. Getting some items for free could help free up money in the budget for other classroom supplies.

TeachersPayTeachers

One way to get extra funds for the classroom is just to make extra money. TeachersPayTeachers allows teachers to sell lesson plans, worksheets, and other educational materials. By adding and promoting their materials, teachers can make a little extra cash to use in the classroom. They’ll also find free lesson plans, worksheets, and other resources to use with their students. You can also now raise funds to purchase things on the site through the TpT ClassFund.

DoSomething.org

While teachers can’t start campaigns on DoSomething.org, their students can.  Designed to help teens and young adults fund their causes, teachers can help students get started using DoSomething.org. Through the site, students can find funding and support for school fundraisers, community service projects, and other ideas designed to help others and make the world a better place. If students don’t have their own cause, teachers can help them find an existing cause to support. This works great for character education classes and school clubs.

Amazon Lists

If you have an Amazon account, you can set up a wish list full of items you need in your classroom through Amazon Lists. Share the link with parents, friends, or even total strangers and ask them to purchase something from your list. Items purchased from your list can be shipped directly to you at the address you select. The address will be hidden from senders so safety is not an issue. Don’t have a strong network of support? Connect with a page such as Teacher Amazon Gifting which encourages teachers to support one another by purchasing items from wishlists or tweet out a link to your list with #SupportATeacher and #clearthelist.

GoFundMe Education

GoFundMe allows teachers to post fundraisers for their classrooms on its cloud-funding platform. The site includes categories for teachers, teams and clubs, and students and parents.

SimpleFund

SimpleFund gives parents and students a chance to raise funds for schools by using their cell phones. They earn funds by reading articles, watching videos, and downloading apps.

Class Tag

Class Tag helps you raise money as you communicate with parents. Every time you engage with parents, you earn coins within the program. Those coins can be redeemed for classroom supplies.

Shoparoo

Shoparoo uses grocery receipts to help schools earn money. Parents simply download the app and upload their receipts every time they shop. Then the school earns money.

What other websites, resources, or methods have you used to help fund your classroom needs?

Non-Spooky Halloween Activities

For kids who dislike ghosts, ghouls, and skeletons, Halloween can be a rough season. It’s hard to know what’s lurking around the corner at pumpkin patches, corn mazes, trunk or treats, and even the local grocery store. Still, that doesn’t mean you have to skip Halloween altogether. There are plenty of ways to celebrate Halloween without bringing in the darker side of the season.

1. Paint pumpkins

For some kids, carving pumpkins can be too spooky, especially with their crazy faces, but what’s stopping you from painting a pumpkin? Choose some bright colors and focus on funny faces or cute patterns, such as dots and stripes.

2. Bob for apples

If you’re having a Halloween party, throw in a traditional bobbing for apples game. While it may not be the most hygienic, kids will have fun trying to capture the apples with their mouths.

3. Watch a pet parade

Check your local newspaper or activity guide for a pet costume parade. These parades are usually free from spooky costumes and, instead, focus on adorable animals in silly costumes.

4. Head to a fall festival

Many fall festivals are held during the day and focus on the fun side of the season. To ensure the festival will be free from spookiness, consider attending one sponsored by a church where it’s less likely that ghosts, skeletons, guts, and gore will make an appearance.

5. Read a cute Halloween story

Read a story such as The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin which focuses more on accepting your differences and fitting in than trying to scare kids on Halloween. Another cute Halloween book is Pumpkin Cat by Anne Mortimer. Elementary Librarian has a great list of Halloween read-alouds for more ideas.

6. Hold a non-spooky costume party

Invite some friends over for a costume party where only fun, happy costumes are allowed. Consider coming up with a theme, such as favorite cartoon characters or storybook characters.

7. Trick or treat with friends and family

Rather than going trick or treating around your neighborhood, set up a time where you can trick or treat at the homes of different friends and family members. Do it during the day so you won’t see any scary masks or other costumed people out and about.

8. Have Halloween craft time

Rather than making a spooky bat, Frankenstein, or other scary craft, just pull out some orange and black paint and construction paper, along with some glue and googly eyes, and let kids come up with their own creations.

9. Make silly monsters

Monsters don’t have to be scary. Focus on crafting monsters with silly faces rather than scary ones. You can give them cute names too.

10. Create leaf art

Go outside and gather some leaves. Make leaf creatures by adding eyes, noses, arms, and legs or use the leaves to make collages and other fun pictures.

11. Paint with a pumpkin

Cut out different shapes from a pumpkin and use those shapes as stamps. Dip them in paint and press them on paper to create unique works of art.

12. Make slime

Slime is often associated with Halloween, but that doesn’t mean it has to be spooky. Make or buy some slime and have fun getting your hands messy.

13. Play in a sensory bin

Slowly introduce kids to some of the spookier aspects of Halloween through a themed sensory bin. You can throw in a few small plastic bats, ghosts, or spiders if your child can handle them in small doses. You may also want to add plastic pumpkins, some dirt, or black beans. For extra texture, add some orange or black water beads.

14. Go on a candy hunt

One of the best parts of Halloween is getting to trick or treat, but you don’t have to find candy in traditional ways. Hide candy around your house or in your yard and send kids on a fun scavenger hunt to find it or set up different trick or treat stations in each room of your house.

15. Focus on educational activities

Try Help Teaching’s 100 Educational Pumpkin Activities to bring math, science, and literacy practice to the holiday.

If you do decide to head out to some more traditional Halloween events, be sure to call beforehand to see if there will be any spooky elements there and walk ahead of your child in any corn mazes or on any paths so you can be prepared to turn around if any scary elements appear. You may also want to bring along some headphones or a pair of sunglasses to help your child tune out the spooky sights and sounds.

For loads of fun and informative Halloween worksheets for kids, why not take a look at KidsKonnect’s library of topics. And while you’re there, check out their super interesting article about the History of Halloween, for kids!

100 Fitness Activities for Families


Physical fitness is essential to our health and has a big influence on our mental wellness too. Yet, with full work schedules, equally busy children, and lockdown restrictions, making the time for exercise too often falls to the bottom of the list. While May is officially National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, any time of the year is good for becoming more active. And being physically active is way more fun and much less of a chore when done together, we’ve put together a list of 100 fitness activities for families. Whether you have toddlers, tweens, or teens, we’ve got you covered not just with fitness activities, but with improved family time too!

Host Backyard Games

Whether you’re in your yard or at a park, there’s nothing like open space to inspire movement. While they may not always show it, your children will get a kick out of seeing you acting like a kid again. Consider inviting friends and neighbors to join you in these outdoor games. You can even combine these activities into a full-fledged backyard Olympics!

1. Make and run an obstacle course
2. Take on the high seas with a game of pirate ship
3. Design, build, and play your own mini-golf course
4. Seek treasure or discover nature with a scavenger hunt
5. Play a game of soccer, volleyball, flag football or another team sport
6. Run relay races
7. Strategize as a team in a game of capture the flag
8. Get messy – play in the mud, have a frozen t-shirt race, engage in a shaving cream battle, or even slip on a water slide covered in chocolate syrup

Lend A Hand

Volunteering can keep you moving while you help out others and your community. Depending on the volunteer opportunity your family may be packing, cleaning, stacking, running, or building! So lend a hand, teach your children the importance of social responsibility, and work in some physical fitness while your family spends meaningful time together. Sites like VolunteerMatch can help connect you with the right cause for your family.

9. Help out at a bottle and can drive
10. Clean up litter along roads or trails
11. Participate in a run or walk for charity
12. Join a community building project like Habitat for Humanity
13. Collect, organize, and distribute food through your local food bank
14. Volunteer at a meal center
15. Explore new places while giving back – plan a family volunteer vacation
16. Lend a helping hand around the yard or home of a grandparent or neighbor in need.

Roll with Rainy Days

Rainy weather can be challenging for families with rambunctious children. Kids need to move, but a string of poor weather can dampen their spirits. Don’t let the weather impede your fitness goals. Instead, roll with the rain and keep the family moving!

17. Play indoor hide-and-seek
18. Challenge the family to a game of fitness bingo
19. Build a blanket fort and play in it
20. Make cardboard box cars, then race them
21. Crank up the tunes and do a freeze dance (think musical chairs)
22. Have a pillow fight
23. Play follow-the-leader
24. Dress up and walk the runway in a family fashion show
25. Play charades or other movement games
26. Pretend to belt out tunes in a family a lip sync battle
27. Put on a family talent show
28. Read and act out a movement story or video together
29. Kick up your heels and play a dance video game
30. Get outside and go puddle jumping

Do Chores

They’re not glamorous, but chores must be done. On the plus side, chores help burn calories. Divide tasks and make a morning of getting some things done around the home and yard. Turn on some background music and agree as a family on something fun to do together once the chores are finished.

31. Mow the lawn
32. Rake leaves – jump in the pile before picking it up
33. Try on old clothes, pass down or donate ones that no longer fit
34. Paint a room
35. Chop and stack wood
36. Walk the dog
37. Wash and clean out the car
38. Clean the windows
39. Sort through books, donate ones no longer wanted or needed
40. Vacuum the rugs and mop the floors
41. Run errands – walk if you can or park the car at the further spot in the lot
42. Plant a family tree

Get Adventurous

Teens may be more reluctant to spend time as a family than younger children. Engage them with these high adventure activities and embrace your wild side along the way! Due to the need for specialized equipment and professional instruction, adventure activities can be more expensive than other fitness options. However, check coupon sites as they often feature significant discounts to places that offer these activities.

43. Ride into the sunset on horseback
44. Rage the rapids on a rafting tour
45. Scale a wall at a rock gym
46. Get tangled up in a ropes course
47. Go mountain biking
48. Vacation by going on a family camping trip
49. Try indoor skydiving
50. Participate in a mud run or obstacle race as a team
51. Take a SCUBA certification course
52. Play laser tag
53. Train together for a CrossFit competition

Explore Someplace New

Getting kids out of their everyday environment can open their eyes to the larger world and spark excitement and curiosity. Whether you fly across the county to visit a new city or explore a local museum, a day of walking and discovering a new place adds up to a lot of steps! Be sure to check with your public library first, it may offer free or discounted passes to museums.

54. View works of art, explore history, or learn science at a museum
55. Visit a national park – families of 4th graders get free annual passes here
56. Take a walking tour of a city
57. Ride your bikes the length of a rail trail
58. Climb a mountain
59. Brave a cave tour
60. Put on costumes and join a historical reenactment
61. Go letterboxing or geocaching
62. Play on a playground your kids haven’t been to before

Make A Splash

There is nothing like playing in water during the heat of summer. Kids can spend all day splashing in a pool or digging in the sand, so join them! Many communities have public beaches or pools that are free or at reduced cost for residents.

63. Run through the sprinkler
64. Ride the waves on a boogie or surf board
65. Try paddle boarding
66. Have a squirt gun battle
67. Team up for a water balloon fight
68. Paddle a river or lake in canoes, kayaks, or paddle boats
69. Jump over waves
70. Hit a home run with water balloon baseball
71. Register emerging swimmers for lessons

Take On Winter Weather

Winter brings a unique set of challenges to staying fit. Don’t let the weather keep your family indoors. Rather, bundle up and take advantage of the fitness opportunities that come with snow and ice! By trying a new winter sport, your family may fall in love with an activity you can do together for years to come. If you don’t own winter sporting equipment borrow from friends or look for places that offer daily rentals.

72. Downhill ski or snowboard
73. Cross-country ski
74. Go ice-skating
75. Build a snow family
76. Have a snowball fight
77. Make snow angles
78. Shovel the driveway
79. Shovel a neighbor’s driveway
80. Explore the woods while snowshoeing
81. Go ice fishing
82. Hop on a sled
83. Try snow tubing

Create Healthy Eating Habits

Eating healthy is an essential part of any fitness plan. With hectic work, school, and extra-curricular schedules, setting aside time to prepare and share healthy meals can be challenging. But, we all must eat, so take the opportunity to teach your children lifelong eating habits while spending some quality time together!

84. Pack a healthy picnic and hike to a scenic spot
85. Take a cooking class as a family, check nearby grocery stores as some offer free programs
86. Set up a schedule where each family member is responsible for planning and cooking a meal
87. Involve children in packing their own lunches
88. Go to your local farmer’s market together
89. Go fruit picking at a nearby farm or orchard, then try a new recipe with the fruit
90. Cook one meal a week that features locally grown, seasonal food
91. Gather favorite family recipes and publish them in a cookbook – check out Blurb
92. Plant a home vegetable garden or potted herb garden
93. Join a community garden
94. Volunteer at your child’s school and help raise a school garden
95. Spice up dinnertime by planning a weekly themed meal night – from Meatless Mondays to Fancy Fridays, your kids will look forward to this new family tradition

Make Time for Mindfulness

The end of a harried day is the ideal time to come together as a family and create time for a few mindful moments. There are many wonderful free mindfulness videos and audio recordings available online or through your public library.

96. Practice yoga along with a video geared for kids or families
97. Dim the lights, get comfortable, and listen to a guided meditation recording
98. Try progressive muscle relaxation
99. Do some calming breathing exercises
100. Lay on a blanket in the yard or park and focus on the sounds around you or stargaze

How does your family stay fit and active? Share your ideas in the comments. Visit Help Teaching and browse our collection of free physical education printables!